Monday, October 03, 2011

New Beginning 889

They’ve found me.

I’ve been careful, as careful as a dream junkie can be, which is never careful enough, apparently, because the cops have found me. And when I say “the cops” we’re not talking those who protect and serve. We’re talking those who moonlight as assassins for the rich and powerful.

Well, I guess they do protect and serve. Just not people like you and me.

I’ve been clean for seven months, but they’re not chasing me to run me up on some stupid dream theft charge. They want something more: they want me dead and the Senator’s dream to die with me. Right now they’re about to get me cornered in an alleyway where they’ll make me disappear, just like they did that reporter. I have about twenty seconds.

I create a door. Normally something as large as a door takes hours——especially in my weakened state——but I don’t have that kind of time. The door materializes in the wall and I open it. A bullet ricochets off its edge and I turn to see one of the cops pointing his gun at me.

Quickly, I close the door and uncreate it, just in time. Bloody cops. Looking around, I see a snow-covered world and off in the distance, a witch on a sledge is approaching. Oops, wrong world.

I create a rocket-powered Zamboni. Normally something that complicated would take months, but I don't have that kind of time. The engines thrust me across an ice floe, but I can't stop the thing and it slides off the edge of a cliff. One thought occurs to me: do I have time to create a parachute?


Opening: Stacy.....Continuation: Pthalogreen/EE

31 comments:

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuation:


I dive through the door, my energy sapped. The ricochet hit my foot, my big toe as a matter of fact, the one with the fungus on it.

The bullet relieves me of my toe nail fungus and the toe it was spreading out on. Damn, I don't even have the energy to stop the bleeding. Can I die from a bleeding TOE? After all the Senator and I went through?

The absurdity of my situation makes me grin/grimace through the pain. God that hurts.

--Wilkins MacQueen

Evil Editor said...

The dream theft idea is intriguing.

P2: I'd change "is never" to "isn't."

I'd either drop P1 (They've found me.) or change "have found me" in sentence 1 of P2 to something else like "have tracked me down," or "are right behind me."

Change "we're not talking" (and "we're talking") to "I'm not talking" or "I don't mean."

P4: Is it "run me up"? I thought it was "run me in."

Change "on some stupid dream theft charge" to "for dream theft." (I'm assuming you're going for a noir-type narrator, not a junior high kid.)

Change "get me cornered" to "corner me."

If you have 20 seconds maybe you should get out of the alleyway and find a place where they can't corner you.

P5: How can something that normally takes hours take twenty seconds? Why can't you do it in 20 seconds every time?

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Hey, this is pretty good. It starts in the right place, and doesn't bog us down with unnecessary details like the character's age, occupation, nationality, marital status and why they have that marital status and and and.

There are a few excess words-- things a protag probably wouldn't bother to say in quite so much detail if he was running for his life.

And there's a question of audience... he obviously thinks he's telling this story to people from outside his microculture. But presumably that gets answered later on.

150 said...

I don't think you need all three of the expository paragraphs between "They've found me" and "I create a door" (like I told the Circe guy, we're not idiots, we'll catch on) but I'd keep reading. Short story?

Dave Fragments said...

I'd take it down to this to see if it feels beter to get to the action right away:

They’ve found me.

I’ve been careful, as careful as a dream junkie can be, which is never careful enough, apparently, because the cops have found me. And when I say “the cops” we’re not talking those who protect and serve. We’re talking those who moonlight as assassins for the rich and powerful.

{...}

{...} they’re not chasing me to run me up on some stupid dream theft charge. They want {...} want me dead and the Senator’s dream to die with me. Right now {...} I'm cornered in an alleyway where they’ll make me disappear, just like they did that reporter. I have about twenty seconds.

I create a door {...} in the wall and I open it. A bullet ricochets off its edge and I turn to see one of the cops pointing his gun at me.


Now the dreamer can fall through the door, get hit with the bullet, have the bullet destroy what is on the other side or maybe have a demon rage through the door and rip the policeman apart.

Dave Fragments said...

Stephen King reads from his next book -- a ten minute survey of the retired folks who travel in RV's and block the roads.

It is instructive to listen to the excerpt to the end where it takes one of King's delightfully wicked twists that chills the soul and makes the heart skip a beat.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/27/shining-sequel-_n_983682.html

And sometimes, you need all those words like his excerpt if you can pull it off. The man is a master at describing the familar and turning it into evil...

"[The Tribe] doesn't like dogs, but they like certain children. Yes, they like certain children."

BuffySquirrel said...

With one bound, s/he was free.

Because the protag is in a weakened state, they can do a job that normally takes hours in mere seconds? Eh? And again, eh? Do they carry enervating pills for emergencies?

The opening dithers. These are cops. Not the protect and serve type cops. Other types of people you wouldn't normally call cops but I do. Although they do protect and serve in their way. Your protag is in Imminent Danger of Death, and this is what they're thinking about?

pthalogreen said...

I liked this. Even though my first thoughts on the door thing was Narnia (and my second thought was that scene from Wheel of Time when one of the three girl's Rand's dating makes a gateway into that snowy place and Rand follows her... not sure why all this is making me think of snow. But anyway, I'd definitely read on.

I would recommend cutting some of the initial world building and working it in later, as needed. You want a little of it there, but I feel there's too much "reflections on the everyday mechanics of my world which is dull and everyday to me, the main character, so i'm not sure why i'm even thinking about it." in your opening paragraphs. The character's being chased by cops, but they're bad cops not good cops. that's enough. we can find out more about what that means later.

i like the voice, and i like where it seems to be going. and it's good that you haven't explained what this dream theft stuff is yet because i'd be willing to read on to find out (and once you've had me reading for a chapter or so, i'll hopefully be attached enough to the main character to want to find out what his happily ever after is and what the road to that will look like

stacy said...

Thanks for the comments and suggestions, everyone.

I struggled with how much information to include in the beginning. I wanted to establish that we are indeed in a different world (one very much like ours, but in it people have magical powers - some limited), but judging by the comments I think maybe a hint or two would be enough.

This guy's a dream junkie - the equivalent of a heroin junkie in our world. He gets high on other people's dreams. He got high on a Senator's dreams and now he's privy to plans the Senator doesn't want anyone to know. That's part of the backstory. Is the Senator part relevant? The dream junkie part is because of what happens once he goes through the door. Not sure whether explaining why the cops are chasing him is important, though. They come in again at the end, but ... would you guys even care about why they want to kill him? Once the rest of the story gets cranking, it's going to be hard to fit it in. Oh wait. I guess that's my answer.

EE, I will make the other edits. The continuation made me laugh a rather embarrassing laugh that made me glad I'm working from home today.

Thanks again, everyone! Really appreciate the feedback, and I'm heartened to know this is at least going in the right direction.

Anonymous said...

The why they're after him explanation doesn't seem to be working here. If they just appeared in someone else's dream how would he know who they were or what their motives were? You could fix it by switching to a different pov so the info is provided by someone who would know. The dreamer, maybe.

stacy said...

He's not in a dream yet, Anon.

Dave Fragments said...

The why they're after him explanation doesn't seem to be working here.

It worked when the politician was named Greg Stillson.

BuffySquirrel said...

Another thing. Once you lay down the rules for your world, you are pretty much stuck with them. So if it takes hours to create a door, it creates hours to create a door, and you can't suddenly create one in seconds without a good reason why the rules have changed. If you continually break your world's rules in order to get the protag out of trouble, that sucks all the tension out of the story.

Characters can be *wrong* about the rules. That's fine. But they can't go from creating doors in hours to creating them in seconds without a reason beyond plot convenience. He can't escape that way this time. So he needs to find another way--or get caught.

stacy said...

The time frame of creating a door is not a rule at all.The idea I was trying to convey was that he was working much faster than under normal circumstances because of his terror. The time frame is something I'll be editing out.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Ms. Squirrel's point is a salient one, and I hope you will take it to heart.

You do have a little too much backstory. There may not be a chance to work it in later, no. It may not matter. There are few matters on which writers are more frequently mistaken than on the backstory one. When in doubt, lose the backstory. When in no doubt, lose the backstory anyway.

Chelsea P. said...

I love the voice, but you're constantly contradicting what you've just said:

He's been careful not to be caught. Now he's caught.

They're cops, but not what you'd think.

They don't protect and serve. Yes they do.

It takes hours to make a door. No it doesn't.

You see what I mean? Almost everything he says is immediately taken back or corrected. I think a few tweaks could fix this:

"I've been careful, as careful as a dream junkie can be, but the cops found me anyway. And when I say "the cops," I mean the crooked kind, the ones who moonlight as assassins for the rich a powerful.

Sure, these guys protect and serve. Just not people like you and me."

The rest is fine, as long as you explain the door thing at some point. Like I said, I like this, but the contradictions were getting in my way.

:)

vkw said...

I wasn't too into this. There was some intrigue and I probably would read on for a moment more but some explanation better be forthcoming.

I would agree and then pardon to disagree with Buffy Squirrel. Rule one, one may not disregard the rules established in the fantasy. Rule Two, in all circumstances if Rule One is broken there must be consequences that is equal to the benefit of breaking the rule. Rule Three, the creator of the world can rule one and rule two if a viable explanation is given.

So -

Normally a magical door is created in hours not seconds.

exception 2 - but if one is willing risk a speeding ticket for going over the speed limit (character characteristic) or willing to be puking in the gutter for six hours then it's possible.

Exception 3 - however, I can break rule 1 because I spent my entire savings on this magical pea that allows me to do so.

I would suggest that evoking rule 2 or rule 3 in order to bypass the total "I don't believe this can happen in a fantasy novel!" (which is just odd to begin with - it's a fantasy. It's fiction! Come on guys poke a hole of the belief filter and enjoy the ride). Or the rulemongers that will say you, the author and creator of the world, can't do that.

Very strange discussion.

I think EE had a classic query on this idea - thus you may want to evoke rule 4 - I can do this, I am the creator but your consequence will be to evoke the wrath of muscle-squirrels and others.

(No offense to BF. I usually agree with the muscular fur bearer.)

vkw

Xiexie said...

It works for me. And I agree with vkw.

iago said...

This protagonist is known to us.

fairyhedgehog said...

I really liked this! EE makes good suggestions as always and I'm glad you're going to tweak the time frame for door making but I'd definitely read on.

stacy said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone.

BuffySquirrel said...

You didn't so much disagree as say those things I ought to have said, vkw :).

batgirl said...

I came very close to liking this. What tripped me was the see-sawing. This ought to be tense, almost breathless 'I'm caught! Can I escape?' but the narrative slows down to discuss and argue with itself.
Can you make it a little more rushed, and less discursive? Instead of saying it usually takes hours to make a door, say that you're making the door, and the rush and effort is crushing your lungs or whatever. This is all a little detached.

Anonymous said...

"Because the protag is in a weakened state, they..."

Um, what?

English's problematic lack of a gender-neutral singular pronoun doesn't mean we can just pretend "they" fits the bill. It doesn't. He/she, s/he, or one of the two. Those are our only choices.

stacy said...

Hi, EE. I've edited this opening and I'm submitting it for feedback. Thanks!

They’ve found me.

I’ve been careful, as careful as a dream junkie can be—which isn’t enough, apparently, because the cops are right behind me. And when I say “the cops,” I mean those who are sworn to protect and serve the rich and powerful, and only the rich and powerful.

I’ve been clean for seven months, but they’re not after me to run me in on some dream theft charge. They don’t just want me dead: They want me to disappear. Just like that reporter.

I round the corner and find I’ve come to a dead end. No way out. I’ll have to create a door. I only have about twenty seconds, so I gotta work fast. The door materializes in the wall and I run toward it. A bullet ricochets off its frame and I can’t help turning to see the cop who shot it. He’s big and nondescript, with dark glasses and a trenchcoat. Waxy black hair. Clearly these men are not afraid of clichés.

He smiles and says, “Now that I’ve got your—“
But I don’t let him finish. I open the door and leap through the threshold just as another bullet hits the door’s edge. I slam the door shut and bolt the lock. For a moment, all is quiet.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

I dunno, Stacy. There was a snap-snap voice to the first version, but the second sounds more dreamlike. It lowers the tension level.

/just my opinion.

Evil Editor said...

I've copied and posted it below, cutting a few words and sentences to give it a more noirish feel. Guessing that's the tone you want. If it is, channel your inner Sam Spade.


They’ve found me.

I’ve been careful, careful as a dream junkie can be, but the cops are right behind me. And by “cops,” I mean those who are sworn to protect and serve the rich and powerful.

They don’t just want me dead: They want me to disappear. Like that reporter.

I round the corner. Dead end. No way out. I create a door, run toward it. A bullet ricochets off its frame and I can’t help turning to see the cop who shot it. He’s big and nondescript. Dark glasses, trench coat, waxy black hair . . . Obviously not afraid of clichés.

He smiles. “Now that I’ve got your—“

I don’t let him finish. I open the door and leap through as another bullet hits wood. I bolt the lock.

For a moment, all is quiet.

stacy said...

Thanks, AlaskaRavenclaw (love that name, by the way). I'm going more for what EE just did, so I'll have to go back and re-do. Thanks for the feedback!

That is more of the tone I'm going for, EE. Thanks!

BuffySquirrel said...

Oh, flip! English doesn't lack a gender-neutral singular pronoun. 'They' has been used as a singular pronoun for hundreds of years, since long before anybody cared about issues like gender-neutrality. It's a perfectly legitimate, long-established choice that just happens to be gender-neutral.

Dave Fragments said...

I like EE's Noir tone of voice. It seems to suit your chapter or story better than any of the other versions.

Regardless of what you finally end with. Please cut this kind of reinforcement:

I mean those who are sworn to protect and serve the rich and powerful, and only the rich and powerful.

to this:
I mean those who are sworn to protect and serve the rich and powerful.

You can do the first version once in a story or novel and then only with something so important you want to call the reader's attention to it by hitting them over hte head with a brick. Otherwise, it burdens the reader.

PS- my word verification was "TERSE"

stacy said...

Thanks for the feedback, everyone.